Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Want to Bang Kaiden Alenko ................. What ?

Characters in video games have become increasingly engaging over the years. There was a time when nameless space crafts blasted away aliens without cause. Now, we find a story so rich that the player is emotionally attached to characters and even that same spaceship.

While playing Mass Effect, I developed a virtual nerd crush on Kaiden Alenko. He's handsome, smart, and good with a weapon. Throughout the story, he's putting on the moves and dishing out some serious sweet talk. And best of all, towards the end of the game, your characters get to go at it. That's right. You can use your authority to seduce that poor guy into bed. And that's exactly what I did. Twice.

We are all used to having games where we cheer for the good guy, but making us fornicate with members of the team is a new one. As a player, we are all probably familiar with the feeling of hatred towards the bad guy. Nothing feels better than coming out the other side of a boss battle victorious. But how often have you thought one of your own teammates was a bitch ? Enter: Miranda from ME2.

She is a bitch in every sense of the word and incredibly easy to hate. I don't hate her because her character is weak or lacks certain powers. I don't hate her because of any past wrong doings. She is just a nasty person. Miranda rolls her eyes, disregards my orders, and seems to have a snotty attitude towards everyone. Someone needs a smack.

I know that I am not the only one out there either. I have been sitting in parties or sifting through forums and see the visceral reaction that players have towards all sorts of games. My friends were desperate to hear how Master Chief's story would end. Nerds everywhere were bracing for the big moment in FFX. And who didn't have at least a little love for a certain shadow boy trudging his way through purgatory.

So I'm using this short blog to once again appreciate how far game development has come. Its incredibly easy to become wrapped up in the characters and stories. Its impossible not to love or hate some of these personalities. I can only hope that as they continue to develop the technology behind games, they also drive the experience emotionally.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Your Job Here is Done

100% complete.   The illusive 100%...  Xbox even promotes it now by having games that you've 100%-ed on the first page of your achievements page.  Mine?  Sadly blank.  I have shame face.  You can pry see it from there.

Debbie just texted me earlier this week that she got every achievement on Fable 3.  (This was part of the reason she replayed it as the 'bad guy' character, which she blogged about here.)  I am crazy jealous.  I went back and looked through the list of games I've played and how far I am on the achievements... I find that I am not very far, even though I am an admitted achievement lover!  I live for them!  I strive for them!  I work towards the most awkward, ridiculous, time consuming achievements!  And yet I am hovering around, or at less than 50% complete on the majority of my games.  Unless they're arcade, they I am usually only lacking one or two..  But that even made me think: do I want my first 100% to be on a game with twelve total achievements?

I have spent an obnoxious amount of time on games like Lego Star Wars trying to find every red brick or other super time consuming achievements.  And a lot of my game history is Guitar Hero/Rock Band and, again, it's a time thing.  I just haven't played every difficulty as every instrument.  Honestly, I probably never will.  Or there's Halo 3 - the game that claimed my life for like a year... and I'm still not 100% on that because a lot of the achive-o's are crazy events that may or may not happen in a vs. match.  Siiiigh.

I love achievements.  I really do...  Someday, I wanna catch 'em all.  How about you guys?  How many games have you 100%-ed?  And how many games do you have that you feel like you never will 100%, no matter how hard you try?


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nice Guys Finish Last and First Place is a Jerk.

This weekend I completed Fable 3 in its glorious entirety. Unfortunately, in order to do so, I had to do a second playthrough. In an effort to test my own limits, I played as an evil character. After all that, I need a hug.

First my decisions were really small. Do I want to whistle and dance or fart and be sexually inappropriate ? Well who doesn't want to be sexually inappropriate ? Some of the bigger decisions were still fun. Do I want to create an orphanage or a brothel ? Of course I picked brothel, prostitutes are always a good time.

Then the decisions started to get harder. I had to do things like break promises to help cities. I sold out a whole village to balverines so I didn't have to work as hard for a collectible item. I even began enforcing child slave labor. Then my final act of madness came. I yelled at my little dog sidekick. As I yelled and degraded him, he began to whimper and drop his tail. I couldn't handle watching it any longer and the experiment was over.

Never has a game made me feel so terrible. Exciting story, captivating characters, and realistic graphics all made the experience so real. I legitimately felt like a jerk. Looking back, it was amazing how something like a video game can cause such an emotional response. When first thinking about this experiment, I envisioned myself hunched over in the dark cackling while I slaughtered innocent villagers. Instead, my soul was completely crushed.

I learned a couple things. First, I might not be the massive jerk I always thought that I was. Being a cruel ruler was infinitely harder than I imagined. And for me, playing as a bad guy wasn't worth the second playthrough just to see how the story had changed. Second, those game designers and writers do an amazing job. As much as I hated being a tool, its fun to think about where game design and execution is going. I'm guessing its all up from here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is it Cheating or Self-Help ?

While socializing with friends on XBL, I began to talk about how close I was to unlocking every achievement in a game. I had completed most of the challenges naturally including finding every single collectible item without using the internet like I usually do. Then, to my complete shock, someone in the party had the nerve to say "Of course you found them naturally, otherwise you would be a cheater". ..... Ouch.

What exactly constitutes cheating in a video game ? Its a really hard to break it all down. There are different types of "cheating". Players have access to strategy guides, codes, and forums. They kind of remind me of that excuse you used in high school when you told a teacher you were "utilizing my resources" as code for everyone copying each others' homework. There are so many ways to make it through a game, but what is considered legit?

First, is a cheat code actually cheating ? If a code is intentionally built into software, then someone on the design team obviously intends people to use it. And if it is suppose to be used, how can that be cheating ? I understand that playing a game from beginning to end in God mode is less difficult than playing it without the code. But I equate it with playing a game on Rookie versus Hardcore difficulty settings. Playing with infinite health or endless ammo is just another level of play.

Strategy guides and walkthroughs are actually sold by publishers. I'm sure they do it as another avenue to make money. But they are so prevalent, it is again expected that they are used. This is pretty close to cheat codes in that using this provides a special aspect of game play. But I only use strategy guides for when I get stuck in a game or if I don't understand something. Especially RPG games like Fallout and Final Fantasy have such intricate menus and leveling system that it can be intimidating and confusing for gamers new to the genre. Guides can help with that.

There are other ways to cheat like boosting and mods, but cheating or altering the play in a public lobby is a whole different beast. But as far as single player games go, I think it is up to the individual player. You might risk losing a few of your bragging rights if you use these extra aides, but I feel like the integrity of the gamer remains intact. How much do you use "outside resources"?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fable 3 Understone Steals Your Money and Smacks Your Mom

In the past, I would base my purchases of dlc on whether or not it contained achievements. Now that I have been more engulfed in RPG and action games as of late, I went out on a limb and downloaded the latest content for Fable 3. I was so excited about finally playing without achievos that I forgot to read any reviews. Fail boat, full steam ahead.

I was so proud of myself ! I kept thinking "Yes ! This will be an extension of a great story. Or maybe my character will be on some fantastic adventure." Lame grenade covered in wrong sauce. This dlc comes with a single mission and access to two mini games. The mini games would have been great earlier in the game. But most people have played through to completion by this point, so the financial winnings are totally pointless.

Lindsey reviewed the Knotthole Island content for Fable 2 and found that it was very little bang for it's buck. It would seem that some things never change. I scoured through the Understone mission, not skipping a single corner or angle. This occupied me for a total of 15 minutes. It should be understood that the content only cost 400 Microsoft Points, but even for the small amount of money and the hard drive space, I expected more. It was a disappointment to say the least.

With all these disappointments, the dlc had one last gift to give: one massive mission glitch. Thanks to this p.o.s. download, my game is now stuck. From looking on the forums, I am not the only one. I am no longer able to fast travel anywhere on the map. Some locations are only accessible via fast travel so now a whole section of the map is no longer available. My hero can only go where they can walk. I am done with the game, but I was only 6 achievements short of getting all the points unlocked, but losing access to a quarter of the map is c-blocking me for reals.

There have been so many times when Lindsey and I have suggested gamers read reviews before making a purchase. Well, I clearly should have taken my own advice. So for everyone out there that is lucky enough to read this before they buy the latest Fable 3 content, save your five dollars and buy something else.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Look At Me ! I'm Dancing, I'm Dancing !

There have been a lot of rhythm and music games in the last five years. Everyone has played guitar hero or enjoyed a round of Rock Band. Parties turn into concerts with DJ Rapstar and Lips. And who doesn't enjoy watching videos of a fat kid and a grown man battling it out in the mall arcade at Dance Dance Revolution. None of these games, have the same potential for massive embarrassment or absolute domination as Dance Central.

This Kinect launch title is comparable to Dance Dance Revolution. You are guided on screen with moves to perform in relation to the music being played. But Dance Central has so many advantages. First, there is no dance pad, just free form seizures. And while playing this, I found the whole system incredible accurate. I remember the first days of the Nintendo Wii where the controller accuracy was slightly on the clumsy side.
But this game is shockingly on point.

Second, the music is infinitely better. Long gone are the days of the DDR quasi-trance, Japanese, pop, underground glow stick beats. Embrace a soundtrack of modern and old school clubs hits. Look for pop, rap, and dance chart toppers. And not only will you find some familiar song
s, but it includes popular and recognizable dance moves from music videos and live performances.

Third, this game has some serious moves. Even the easiest difficulty setting might be a little tricky for those born with two left feet. For the experienced dancer or even just the more athletic, this game is going to be crazy fun. There is a solo playthrough full of unlockable dancers
and venues. Team up with a buddy for dancing duels and freestyles. And if you want be like Jared, you can activate the workout mode which will tell you how long you have been playing as well as calories burned.

This game is addictive. I absolutely loved it. The songs are fun, the moves are difficult, and it makes you sweat. While this looks like a good party game, it really works better for only one or two people at a time. But young or old, if you are looking for a fun way to get off the couch throughout the winter, Dance Central is your best bet.